Serbia and Montenegro get trial period

We spoke with Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Šimonović about the real reason for cancelling the visa regime for the citizens of Serbia and Montenegro, and what stands behind this politically sensitive decision.

Two things must be kept in mind. Firstly, this is a temporary regime, and secondly, it has only been temporarily suspended, not cancelled. The government granted a trial period during which Serbia and Montenegro should undertake certain things to either extend the deadline or cancel the regime all together. On the other hand, this also depends on the EU policy towards Croatia after the suspension. We have to make sure, however, that this does not reflect on the visa policy of the EU towards Croatia. Before the government reached that decision, we met with the representatives of all of the EU members and announced that our government intents to suspend the visa regime for the citizens of Serbia and Montenegro. Their reaction was positive. It is important to note that a whole series of documents from the Thessaloniki summit encourages co-operation, and the flow of people and goods. But without a clear guarantee from the EU that Croatia will not suffer a “Schengen wall” on its borders because of the possible cancellation of the visa regime towards Serbia and Montenegro, we will not be able to prolong the suspension or cancel the regime all together. This is the background, or the wider political aspect, of the government’s decision.

Q: What role did the situation in Serbia and Montenegro have in weighing this decision? A: Apart from said wider political aspect, the improved security situation in Serbia and Montenegro after the processing following the Đinđić assassination also had its influence on reaching this decision. We have also dealt a serious blow to organised crime, so there are now objectively fewer reasons for the existence of visa regime. This temporary suspension is sure to facilitate the process of normalising the relations and improving the economic co-operation between our countries, although we are well aware that this is a highly sensitive issue, because the war wounds have not yet healed.

Q: How did the EU react to this decision? Will the “Schengen wall” be lifted? A: We have asked of the representatives to declare themselves on this, and we will continue to monitor the position of the EU members towards Croatia in that regard. With all the good will to facilitate the flow of people and goods, we cannot allow a “Schengen wall” on our borders.